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cindyjungers

Breathing Expectation

Restless Heart

Not the ’80s country group. My own heart.

It doesn’t happen everyday. I’m often clicking through life just fine and then–bam!–I awaken the next morning restless and, quite honestly, a little unlikeable.

I know immediately I’m “off.” Edgy. Wanting to stay isolated but too bored be alone. So I start looking for something to fill me. And nothing satisfies. I move from thing to thing, not really accomplishing anything. Social Media can serve to distract me in the short run, but by day’s end I’m frustrated and critical of myself for all the time wasted.

This cycle repeats every few weeks. It never lasts long but it wrings me out both mentally and physically. And judging by the way my family scatters when this phenomena strikes me, I gather it’s no picnic for them either.

Today was such a day. It bled into this evening and I’m now sitting here wishing for a do over. As that is not possible, I turn my brain cells toward figuring this out. 

The answer is immediate and oh so simple. It’s my focus. When I put my eyes and heart on only myself, I end up in a dangerous place. Self-serving, self-sufficient, and the all-consuming selfish. I lose sight that I am created by God and for God and His purposes. I haven’t forgotten about him this week, just have been sliding him into the backseat instead of handing over the steering wheel. 

Big sigh of relief when I discover I don’t have a cyclical mental disorder. This is so fixable. Immediately fixable. So I turn my head and heart to My Best Friend Ever to obtain clarity and peace. As usual, he does not fail. And I’m no longer failing either. My head and heart are at peace and I’m looking forward tomorrow because I know I’m restless no more.

Can we find a friend so faithful? – From the hymn What a Friend we Have in Jesus (my Grandma Gobel’s favorite by the way) written by Henry Crosby

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Victory and (Momentary) Defeat

I’ve spent the last several weeks in Joshua and Judges, courtesy of the fanastic first5 ministry. Today was the video wrap up of both chapters from the historic old testament.

 

Joshua is a book bursting with the 12 tribes of Israel claiming victory after victory against the immoral people who occupied the land God had promised to his chosen people. Again and again, Joshua leads the Israeli soldiers as they slay armies and capture cities. Inheriting the promised land is less about sitting down to receive a gift promised and more about downright bloody work.

Unfortunately, God’s people make the poor choice of not entirely cleaning up the land. They allow some of their enemies to live counter to God’s directive. It isn’t long before Israel begins to engage in the corrupt practices of the people who held the land before them. Many of them turn their backs on God entirely, ultimately serving false gods they have created with their own hands.

While God opens His own hands again and again for us, many times without us having to do anything, the stories of Israel’s conquests portrayed in Joshua is a reminder that obedience toward God leads us into claiming and living in his promises. Not long after, Judges reminds us that disobedience can lead to disaster.

Krista Williams themed this weekend’s first5 message on being a woman of conquest rather than a woman of compromise. I too desire conquest over compromise and can see the relevance of Israel’s victorious conquering of nations and then sliding into complacency and compromise as a parallel to my own life.

Following God means being fully obedient and when I am not, understanding there are consequences. That doesn’t mean God isn’t still good and, in particular, good to me–just that I have some unpleasantness to live through based on my own deliberate poor choices. I am unfortunately in a season of repercussion at this moment and feeling the pain of the people of Israel who sat on their laurels a little too long after victory.

The good news for me is the Word of God clearly shows the hope that exists for me, not just in the future but also today, this very moment, as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. God sees my restored heart, rather than the messy outside visible to the rest of the world.  And He clearly shows me through Joshua and Judges when it is necessary for me to pick up my sword and when I need to be still.

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Where I’ve Been

Where I’ve been is as important as where I stand today. And key to where I am going. This is a fairly new truth for me. I’ve mostly considered the past over and done and am ready to see where life leads next. Except when life doesn’t move fast enough, leaving me shuffling my feet and unsure what to do with myself.

I just finished a study on Deuteronomy (Thanks, First 5!). Yep, the OT as in Old Testament, not overtime. As a result, I have a new appreciation for “what has been.”

Deuteronomy (in my unscholarly biblical opinion) is basically a recap of Exodus–the great story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness where they were led and shaped by God for 40 years. Initially it seemed slightly unnecessary to have another biblical book (and a really long one!) retell the events. I have come away, however, with a new perspective.

The retelling of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and wandering in the desert for 4 decades is an opportunity to remind those living then and all who have followed since of the faithfulness of God. By the retelling of these mighty deeds, God’s people were reminded again and again He would not let them down. Because He was faithful in the past, He would continue to be faithful in leading them into conquering and claiming their promised land. And He did. Just as He does for me.

I thought long on my own past today. I am so grateful for the example of two godly grandmas who taught me to persevere in faith no matter what. I was not thankful as a child for being taken to Sunday School, although those foundational teachings have served me well my entire life. As an adult, I also have an appreciation for having learned commitment by attending regularly. I now go/do/serve even when I don’t feel like it. (Thank you, Mom and Dad.)

Life is hard. I am learning that having my own stories of God’s continued faithfulness to recount to myself and my family make it easier to go forward, especially when the storms of life roll over us. We are not lost but rather learning to trim our sails and trust the one who makes the rain.

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The Choice – Death OR Life and Peace

I had a day! Well, actually, not just one day. The last few days, perhaps even weeks, have been tough. Mostly of my own ridiculous making by taking on too much, overthinking, and expecting myself to perform mostly perfectly.

The real problem is that I obviously can’t measure up to my own expectations and this generally results in, well, my not making the best life choices in a variety of areas. Enter today. Which actually started last night. I was angry by some perceived slights and the physical state in which I found my home after working all day. There is no doubt everyone in the household, including the dog, understood quickly this was not a good day for me. They all went their own ways and I attacked the kitchen and living room with fervor. Thank goodness! Cleaning is my best choice for exorcising dangerous thoughts. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually ever deal with the feelings. Which again brought me to this morning.

I don’t like to face myself when I’m not willing to admit I’m in a bad spot and completely resistant to making good choices. So I generally don’t. Instead, I put on my selfish cloak and dive in deeply with whatever I want in that moment with little regard to anyone or anything around me. I pulled that cloak tight today and unleashed an onslaught of selfishness that resulted in some very unfortunate results. Every time I do this and finish my “less than best choices,” I’m left with an empty, angry, emotional hangover. Which is where I was sitting this afternoon while feeling a tiny bit sorry for myself. Sometimes remorse comes quickly, other times it takes me awhile to confront myself and get to the “I’m sorry” that is so necessary for the relationships that mean so much to me.

I had kinda decided I wasn’t going to feel that bad about my behavior (which you’ll notice I did not describe for you) and I sat down and turned on some music. Funny what lyrics can do to a person. In this case, it was Jars of Clay singing Show You Love. I have never been really attached to that song, but some the words completely undid me today:

Speak

And say the words that no one else will ever say

Love

Love like the world is over in a day . . .

I’m gonna speak with words that have no form

I’m gonna give you what you never had before . . .

And you’re beautiful.

Bam! Just like that, Jesus reminds me that he loves me. As I am. In this moment. My selfish, sinful, not very sorry self. It took me 35 years to really believe and accept this. I have always operated under the thought process of “Jesus only loves me when I’m good.” Fortunately, a few different people have helped teach me to annihilate this thought and accept that God loves me the same today, yesterday, and forever. As he does you!

Which is great, great news! But what I want is to get over myself. To stop putting expectations on myself that are completely unrealistic and result in my getting angry with myself and everyone in my path when things don’t turn out the way I want them too. I also want the following pattern of poor choices and icky attitude to go away. What to do? In some reading this week, I came across the following verses:

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:5 and 6)

The answer to my selfish problem is really simple. Get out of the flesh. In other words, stop competing with everybody else in the world to get what I want, stop being angry when I’m not getting my way, and focus my eyes, heart and attitude always on the One who loves me enough to speak with words that have no form and tells me I’m beautiful.

Forget death. I’ll take a big helping of life and peace.

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Why I Breathe

Breathing Expectation. Three years ago this month, I began and christened my blog using this title. The name was then and is now a reminder to myself to live in expectation of good things to come.

2013 was a truly difficult year for me and our family as a whole. The birthing of this blog was a result of that pain. Posting my writing became a tangible way for me to sustain myself through the hurt and confusion.

Writing those first words and (gasp) putting them out for public consumption is one of the greatest leaps of faith I have ever taken. I was terrified. But I had no other options really. In the midst of the emotional beating we were experiencing, I had to decide whether or not I was going to live my faith out loud. In a small step of spiritual obedience, I wrote my very first public blog And we Know, using Romans 8:28 as my anchor:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.

That verse became more than my anchor. It became my saving grace for navigating the remainder of 2013 and every day since. The transformation in the lives of our family–physical, spiritual, financial, emotional–is nothing short of miraculous. Where others intended to hurt, confuse, and destroy, God made peace, clarity, safety, and hope.

And He did it one step at a time. By showing us a little light every day. And–believe me–some days that light was hard to see. After all, you have to get down on your knees to see where the crack of light under the doorway leads. God faithfully showed us that we could not focus on the chaos around us; rather, we needed to keep our eyes on Him. To praise him, to thank (yes thank) Him, to trust Him. It is unquestionably the hardest thing we ever did. It is also unquestionably the best thing we ever did.

It still twists me up to think back to the 2+ years of hurt and uncertainty. But God often shows us where we are going by where we have been. He remained faithful through everything. That is not only what He does but Who He Is. The same yesterday, today, and forever. So much so that I intend to breathe expectation for the rest of my days.

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To My Oldest Son

What a ride we’ve had so far. Your recent high school graduation prompts me to look back on what we’ve shared so far and it can only be called amazing. You have taught me far more than you know and it is my turn to say thank you.

You won’t remember the winter and spring of 1997 when I had the first ultrasound of my pregnancy with you and a black spot on your brain was discovered. You won’t remember the tissue test the two of us underwent and the doctor’s resulting recommendation to abort you. I’ver never told you that I regret that test every day of my life. Your dad and I are convinced something we were told was so simple and necessary was actually invasive and traumatizing to both of us. And completely unnecessary.

You do know, of course, that thankfully and prayerfully we ignored that doctor’s advice. As a result, you stand before us today a man of health and integrity and your body houses the largest heart that anyone could ever imagine.

Early years with you were tough. You rarely slept. And I mean that literally. The first 3 1/2 years of your life, while precious, are somewhat of a fog to all of us. And you struggled with some health issues that I again can’t help but wonder if they tied into that damned tissue test! (Seriously, I’m getting over that . . . )

I remember the first day you went to “Moose School.” You stood in the living room with your backpack strapped to your back on your 4th birthday, watching the planes fly into the World Trade Center. You were devastated by what was unfolding on TV but so excited about your first day of school and celebrating your birthday. You have lived every day of your life since that fateful day in the same way–caring beyond measure what is happening to others while looking forward to what every day brings.

You had some struggles in school, academically and socially. And I worried. A little. Until your wise fifth grade teacher told me how much you were liked by everyone and that the heart you show every day makes you “golden.” She was right then and she is right now. And as I learned to let go of you (and you are the hardest one for me to release my grip), you began to flourish, to find your own way, and eventually to establish close friendships with people I couldn’t be happier to call your best friends.

You’re ready to take your next steps. College. And we’ve had lots of talks about what you are most comfortable with and what makes the most sense. Just remember, life doesn’t always make sense. The hard, early days you spent in the womb and adjusting to life after birth and the health issues you experienced off and on in your first decade of life were not a foreshadowing of your future. Rather they provided with you with development of strength, resilience, and love to grow into the man you are today.

And I could not be more proud of you. You love like no one else I know. You give of your time, talents, and money like no other. Your thoughtfulness and compassion are rare commodities in this “me first” world. You, son, are my treasure.

 

Connor Prom 2016

Kissing Anxiety Goodbye

Gratitude is the antidote to anxiety – Alli Worthington

Yes. That.

A-n-x-i-e-t-y: An abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear over an impending or anticipated ill.

Who wants to have that? Not me. And yet I did. Do. A couple of weeks ago I realized I have been living in an ongoing state of anxiety for months. Some of it I can trace back to a heavy workload and a few twists in the road of life that have taken me by surprise. But the state of extreme anxiety in which I found myself clearly has a lot more buried beneath the surface. Basically, I’ve been wrapped in a chokehold of ever-increasing destructive thought patterns. A self-imposed prison of sorts.

One thing I had immediate conrol over is recognizing that a medication I have been on for several months could be the culprit inducing some of these false feelings. For better or worse and without consulting a medical professional (something I don’t advocate), I went off the pills cold turkey. I felt relief within a couple of days. But not complete relief. And that was a total downer because it meant I needed to face myself. Again. That’s when I went searching for the rest of the problem.

Notice the tail end of the anxiety definition above: “impending or anticipated ill.” I have no such things. I have no reason to believe there is impending or anticipated trouble of any kind and yet I have been living as though I am one tiptoe away from disaster. As I examined these tentacles of dread, I discovered they aren’t carrying truth. Just anxiety. For the sake of anxiety. And to keep me mentally and emotionally tangled up so as not to live in peace.

How to reset myself? I wrestled with that for a little bit. Then I came face to face with the same truth I’ve encountered many times. The truth I don’t like to admit. I have a problem trusting God. I know and believe His words and promises, but I continue to have trouble flat out trusting Him. Even though He has seen us through some real disasters. Time and again. Faithfully. Do I really think that one more misstep on my part is going to put me so far out of His reach that He won’t save me again? I really don’t. Yet I have been living like that is exactly what I believe. Sad. Simply sad. And unnecessary. I know better.

Enter Alli Worthington’s wise words above: Gratitude is the antidote to anxiety. So true. Again, so simple. When I look back over the last several years, there are times of crisis where I have absolutely thrived and seasons of plenty where I have choked on fear. The difference is in the approach. When my eyes are off myself and I am giving thanks and praise to the one who deserves every bit of it, life is navigable and joyful. Hopeful and peaceful.

After months of unfounded fear and a few tears, I am again choosing gratitude. It’s only been a day but that nasty elephant on my chest is gone. And my soul is quietly trusting.

Peace I leave with you.

My peace I give to you.

I do not give to you as the world gives [thank God, emphasis mine].

Your heart must not be troubled or fearful. John 14:27 (HCSB)

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I Think I Love You

Cold, sick, tired of spring not having sprung. Been a tough couple of weeks for me.

The entire family has been down and out sick, sick, sick. Couple that with the cold winds and the brown ground that shows through when the snow stops for enough days in a row, and you have a recipe for immediate depression.

I am a personality that falls easily into complaint, irritation, frustration, and the blahs. When illness and bleakness carry on for days on end, it gets pretty hard for a girl like me to show any spunk.

Sometimes the only way to get better, to look forward, is to fall back. Back to the ’70s. I am fortunate and blessed that my childhood years were wonderful. Fun, safe, and free spirited. I won’t pretend there weren’t difficult family moments, anger and and occasional brokenheartedness, but that’s a blog for another day (maybe).

When I turn back the clock of time in my head, the memories are always accompanied by a musical soundtrack. Fun ’70s music. Music that I listened to on the transistor radio both at the beach and by my beside, blasting from the car stereo (well, AM only) while my dad or brother did the backyard car repair stuff, and on the living room stereo while my sister and I played games and chatted endlessly.

Songs that run through my head without any prompting include Dreamweaver, Silly Love Longs, Oh What a Night, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, If You Leave Me Now, Beach Baby, Benny and the Jets, and Chevy Van. You get the picture I’m sure. Although I’d be remiss not to share that sometimes even the Captain and Tenille and Tony Orlando and Dawn creep into the reminiscing. And, of course, the ’70s musical repertoire would not be complete without selections by the Partridge Family. Not only are the songs nostalgically uplifting, but they remind me of some pretty great ’70s TV shows–Happy Days, Brady Bunch, and Welcome Back, Kotter leading the pack.

I know better than to think the past is the only good time of my life. It’s all been good in its own way with more. But sometimes I need that little boost to remember. After I take even 5 minutes to think back to these happy days of my own, I’m smiling. And now I have the vision to see that big, fat robin in the front yard. A sure sign of spring and better days to come.220px-The_Partridge_Family_Album

 

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (NIV)

 

 

 

Blogging, An Unexpected Spiritual Art

I started blogging in August of 2013 as a response to a difficult life situation. The point was not to dwell or get lost in the difficulty but rather to remember to be grateful for life and all the marvelous things that still held true.

I blogged almost every day for the remainder of that year, using my words to count my blessings. Counting blessings sounds so cliche, yet is so true when one considers the many things for which to be thankful and so important to a truly healthy life and perspective.

The tough season and the catharsis of public writing changed me in ways I did not foresee. In some ways, I am quieter, more thoughtful, and definitely more careful. Not bad qualities. Just different. And sometimes they don’t feel like they fit my skin. But skin adapts to the shape of the body eventually and I am more comfortable with myself today.

The greatest good of that season and today is the spiritual shaping that is taking place. Some days the change happens through a gentle rub. Other days have felt like a chisel against hard clay. But the beauty that comes forth is worth the touch, no matter the depth of the pressure applied.

The truth is, Christ has changed me. Graciously and mercifully he has changed me into someone who looks for the good. Some days I don’t feel like looking. Other days it’s harder to find things for which to give thanks. Those are often the best days because they require some extra effort. And that is the difference. I am making the effort.

Some of you shake your head about what I believe or my words make you uncomfortable. Or you misunderstand what I’ve written and I have to work through my own discomfort of sorting out what I could have said better or wondering if writing is worth my time, even when I know it is.

As I close out 2015, what I know for sure is that I am meant to write. Whether my blog gets forty or zero views in a day. Whether anybody believes in what I have to say. Whether or not you find yourself nodding along quietly. My words have been my stepping stone from darkness to light and a reminder to trust in Jesus every single day.

May you find your hope in 2016-Cindy

  
PS: To all of you out there who have continually encouraged me – Thank you!

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